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Friday, November 7, 2014

How Electronic Voting Systems Are Failing

Electronic voting systems, once considered innovative and the hoped-for progress towards modern American elections that would avoid the dreaded "hanging chad," are proving to be a huge failure and costly boondoggle.

Reports from around the nation are showing significant failures with the electronic machines. 

The electronic systems retain a tragic and serious flaw which, in my opinion, renders them no better than the trusted old mechanical-lever machines of 50 years ago.

The problem is that the technology does not do away with the reliance on trust in people. A stand-alone electronic machine still needs a person to download records, and the general public is still asked to trust the people who are doing the counting of the votes.

Or the maintenance of the machines.

Or the paper record backup for these machines.
Or the auditors who compare the paper record with the electronic record. 

Or...you get the point.

The machine technology is merely considered more reliable than old machines but you still have the potential for a malfunction, or human error (like a transposed number, where 921 becomes 129). Or fraud. Or...you get the point.

Here's a solution which I am working on as part of a New York group, which is subject to a pending patent application. The solution is to have the blockchain system do the vote counting. Machines are used only to input the votes, but the blockchain records all votes in real time. In addition, as the blockchain relies on a form of mathematical proof (really a complex algorithmic assumption) to signify a form of decentralized consensus among all network users (or nodes, representing each election machine) as to the validity of all inputted data (which can be votes in this example), you have a system which is constantly self-validating without the interference from or contamination by people. Moreover, because all data in the blockchain is tied together mathematically, the last vote cast is tied in by an algorithmic relation to each preceding vote (the actual "vote" data is but a small part of the genetic makeup of the block of data and can be easily encrypted to preserve and ensure vote secrecy and anonymity).

The product is a system which does away with the need for post-election counting among thousands of polling places. 

And you know what? This system could be auditable, could go hand in hand with a paper record, but would be faster in tallying votes. 

There would be fewer election day workers counting votes and making mistakes.

The current machines would be reduced to merely taking inputs (votes) from voters and transmitting them over the Internet to the blockchain, instead of having to store a small number of votes until the end of the night.

Doesn't this sound like a better way to run a truly modern, post-industrial nation's elections?

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who works extensively with blockchain and cryptocurrency innovators and startups.

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